According to Google Maps, we were 3,430 miles from home. Best I can tell, we were just about as far as we could go without leaving the country. It’s a good thing too, given the fact that I left my driver’s license on the kitchen table! We’d been on the road for awhile already, having camped a night in Yellowstone National Park, another in a riverside campground somewhere in Western Montana, and yet another in a wonderful place called Winthrop, Washington. Combined with the two nights we spent in rest-stops or Wal-Mart parking lots on the long trek out, we’d been gone for about 6 days already.
But this was what we had really hoped for, to make it all-the-way across the whole map from Tampa, Florida to The San Juan Islands in the incredibly wonderful Pacific Northwest. I say hoped because we really don’t have any set itinerary when we go. We just go. If we have enough time, we head West. If we’re looking at a six or seven days, it’s North. If we have only four or five days, we head South to the wonderful Florida Keys. But we go, and that’s what counts.
So here we were, coming down through the North Cascades into the amazing seaport town of Anacortes, Wa. What a cool place that looked like as we breezed on through. We learned a long time ago that we have to pick our spots and many an inviting stop rolls by out the window. Anacortes is a place we will certainly return to if we get the chance.
Anacortes is pretty much the end of the road. Literally. If our rig is going to go any further, we either need some RV modifications from Q (James Bond’s trusty in-house inventor) or we’re going to need a boat. To the rescue is the Washington State Ferry System. How COOL! I love boats. I love our RV. I’m pretty much in hog heaven when I get my RV on a boat! If you go, especially in an RV, be prepared for a whopper of a fare. It’s not cheap and being a Florida boy (is there a single ferry BOAT in this state?) I was surprised. I almost wanted to haggle. In fact, I think I did a little. At that point, what could I do…pay the price and get on the boat, of course!
Upon arrival in the Anacortes area, we consulted with a tourism expert as to which island(s) we should visit and where we might be able to camp. The man was very helpful and was able to give me a good bit of direction before he finished filling his tank with the most expensive gas I had seen up until that point. I was at the pump quite awhile longer after he left in his yellow pick-up truck, now fueled and ready to go. His research had led him to believe that our best bet was Orcas Island. He said it was the biggest of the islands and had a few towns on it. He was pretty sure I would find a campsite, either at the big state park on the island or somewhere else. “There’s gotta be one or two over there.” is what I recall him saying. Good enough for us…Orcas it is.
The San Juan Islands are majestic in their beauty! The ferry ride over was magnificent in so many ways. The builder in me loved the Pacific Northwest architecture which conjured up memories of New Zealand. The boat guy loved seeing all the ferry boats passing in the Sound. The dad in me loved knowing that my kids were experiencing something so unique and different, and they of course were just thrilled with the whole deal. The husband in me was satisfied that I was helping Kim fulfill her dream to visit one of her MANY MANY MANY “must visit” destinations. She was smiling ear to ear (a beautiful site by itself) and saying over and over, “Wow, the San Juan Islands!”. It was a very happy boat ride.
We arrived on Orcas and found our way by following some signs that said “camping” to West Beach Resort. Wow! What a place. Our campsite was one of the best we’ve stayed in anywhere. We had a perfect Sunset view over the water with islands off in the distance. The resort itself is very nice and the campground part of it is just a small part of what they do. The campers are tucked away in such a way that those in RV’s don’t feel mistreated while those in the oceanfront cottages don’t feel like they’re at the KOA. It would be a treat to one day stay in one of the cottages. They sit right on the beach and every evening the guests all come out and have bonfires in the sand just outside their door. It’s a social time when the guests all walk around and get to know the neighbors while the kids play on the beach. It was very “Pacific Northwest” and the beach experience couldn’t have been more different than a Florida one.
The staff at West Beach is incredible. They are friendly, welcoming, and helpful. Facilities include a store with everything from gifts and local memorabilia, to bacon and eggs. They have an ice cream parlor, coffee shop, and a snack bar for some light fare. All of this is right on the pier. Guests can rent fishing gear, kayaks, and clam digging equipment among other things. The marina (do they call them Marina’s out there?) has slips for private vessels as well as a few rental boats and fishing charters. Our son caught a monster, as you can see in the photo. We’ve travelled extensively and stayed in some incredible places. I’ll write about all of them here and it will be a seldom event for me to offer more praise than for West Beach Resort. As far as our stay was concerned, it was a home run.
Given our time constraints we could only stay for two nights (we were 3,430 miles from home!) and since the resort was so perfect we spent most of our time right there. We did get out and explore Orcas Island one day and found it to be a great place worthy of much more exploration. Moran State Park is the largest park in the San Juan Islands and is home to Mount Constitution, the highest point in the islands. We drove through the park and would have gone up to the top were it not for the repeated stern warnings that if we tried to get “that thing” “up there” we would have some serious issues with the hairpin turns. We decided not to push our luck. The campground here was nice as well, but it’s inland and we wanted to be near the ocean. There is one good sized town on the island. Eastsound is home to many shops, and galleries, and places to get a bite to eat. We had some killer Mexican food while we were there. No kidding. It’s a little on the high side from a price point perspective, but a nice place to spend an afternoon.
All-in-all, Orcas Island was an absolutely perfect experience! We could spend months in the San Juan Islands and hopefully one day we will, but for anyone heading to the area with only a couple of days to spend…make it Orcas and the West Beach Resort. Happy Trails – Tim